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Gale Sayers (True) Rookie Cards

With the 4th Pick of the 1st Round in the 1965 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears selected Gale Sayers from Kansas University. Gale Sayers has one true rookie card but we’ll also look at his second and third-year cards too.

The Running Style of Gale Sayers

As a rookie, Gale Sayers was explosive on the field but bashful off of it. A mild-mannered young man who was raised by a farm laborer in Wichita, Kansas.

He preceded other beloved running backs like Sanders and Payton but is on the same legendary status.

His running style has been identified by many as electrifying, you couldn’t help but keep your eyes glued on him.

He was doing what had never been done before, and the League didn’t know how to stop him.

When running Sayers would cut, weave, stop, and go again. It was a thing of beauty.

It’s well documented that his running style was like a ballet dancer. It demanded grace and precision but also flowed with patterns to create expression through movement.

If you can picture a Jesus Lizard, it walks on water and moves swiftly, that was Gale Sayers! It was a thing of beauty.

Gale Sayers won Rookie of the Year honors with 22 touchdowns!

But Gale almost didn’t win ROY honors, he almost lost it to another Bear rookie in 1965, Linebacker Dick Butkus.

They contrasted each other. Grace and brutality would describe them well. The ogre and the oddity. LOL!

For further contrast, one can say that they represented Chicago.

Sayers was like the wind in the windy city, an elegant, swift breeze. Butkus represented the blue-collar, hard-working, South Side tough guy.

They shared a common bond and carried the Bears franchise.

Gale Sayers Game Worthy of Mention

A weapon to Sayers game was his ability to play various positions. He was also productive as a receiver, punt returner, and on occasion a passer. Sometimes a fake pass that turned into a long run. Gale was the complete package.

With that in mind, one historic game under Sayer’s belt was played in Chicago on December 12, 1965. It was a game against the 49ers. A rainy day that quickly turned into a muddy slip n slide mess.

To Gale’s own admission that day it seemed no matter what the 49ers did it was wrong, and whatever he did was right.

That day Gale Sayers got 6 touchdowns!

He could’ve got a seventh but the score was so lopsided, a backup running back was brought in late in the game for a late score.

Another date that will forever be stamped on the minds of Bears fans was November 10, 1968.

The call by the quarterback. A “29 Yard Toss Left!” A running play Sayers had run hundreds of times in his career.

But then it was as if everything stopped, as Sayers planted his leg to make a sharp cut a defender made the hit…

The principles of physics took over. A season-ending injury that required intensive knee surgery, at the time these procedures were not as advanced as they are today.

Gale Sayers Post Surgery

Handing the baton to his backup, teammate/roommate Brian Piccolo. The two were close friends.

It was Piccolo who pushed and helped Sayer’s all through rehab. Admittedly, Sayers was ready to return but he felt as if he wasn’t at 100 percent.

He had to make adjustments to his game, in order to protect his knee. One could say his game was never the same.

However, Gale worked hard and still put up amazing numbers as he did before.

But a couple of seasons later in 1971, he suffered a second knee injury. Only this time it was career-ending.

It seems like something so beautiful in a game that is so violent is only inevitable.

Sayers career was a very short 68 games.

The Story That Inspired a Movie

In the mid-sixties, there was a fair amount of racial tensions within the United States. Race-based segregation was a real thing even among the NFL.

But the growing friendship of White-American teammate Brian Piccolo and African-American Gale Sayers, as well as their families was awe-inspiring.

So much so that in 1971 ABC Movie of the Week featured “Brian’s Song” played by James Caan and Billy Dee Williams.

It depicts the true story of Brian Piccolo’s fight with cancer shortly after he became a pro-football player.

The message was loud and clear. It focused on the relationship between the white Piccolo and the Black Sayers.

The two were inseparable and when Piccolo was struck by cancer Sayers was by his side every step of the way.

When Piccolo passed away due to his fight with cancer. Sayer’s heart was broken.

Career Stats & Accomplishments

Gale Sayers played in the NFL for only seven years, all of them with the Chicago Bears.

According to Gale Sayers career stats are:

Career Summary: Games 68 | Rushed 991 | Yardage 4,956 | Touch Downs 39.


  • 1965 All-Pro Offensive Rookie of the Year
  • 4x Pro Bowler
  • 5x All-Pro
  • Hall of Fame Induction 1977
  • Hall of Fame All-1960s Team
  • NFL 100 All-Team

1966 Philadelphia, #38 (RC)

So if you’re like most collectors the first thing you probably asked yourself was, “what the heck is a Philidelphia?” At least I know I did.

According to the history books, The Philadelphia Gum Company was established in 1948 in Havertown, Pennsylvania by Edward Fenimore.

The most interesting part of this is Edward was a gum expert and a former employee of Bowman Gum Co.

Since Topps pushed Bowman out of business in 1955 this explains why Edward, now with Philadelphia Gum, aggressively pursued the NFL license in 1964 and beat out the Topps brand. Topps had the AFL license and Philadelphia had the NFL license between 1964-1967.

The 1964 Philadelphia is a 198 card set. It features the only Gale Sayers rookie card in a stiff arm pose highlighting those strong pistons also called legs.

Fairly different in design as they put the name, team, and position banner at the top of the card instead of the traditional placement towards the bottom.

The card back is technically split in half. The left side giving us a player bio, and commentary which highlights statistics.

A Guess Who Quiz highlights the right side of the card back has nothing to do with Gale Sayers and takes up a lot of real estate.

As of the date of this post average price for raw copies is $149.33 dependent on the condition of course.

PSA Graded, Very Good-Excellent copies (4s) have an average sale price of $224.12, Excellent-Mint copies (6s) have an average price of $484.81, and the average sale price for a Near Mint-Mint copy (8s) is $2,162.

1967 Philadelphia, #35 (PRT)

The 1967 Philadelphia set is also a 198 card set.

At first glance, one may think that this is a parallel rookie card of Gale Sayers but it is not. It’s actually a second-year card with a recycled photo.

The photo is zoomed in a bit, with yellow borders, and the player banner is moved back to the more traditional spot at the bottom.

The card back is split in half again this time with a bit of a trivia question that will instruct you to rub the blank space with a coin in order to see the answer. But I wouldn’t do that if you want to preserve the condition.

As of the date of this post raw copies are selling in the $10-$50 range depending on the condition of course.

Graded PSA Excellent-Mint copies (6s) have a $48.78 average sale price, and Near Mint-Mint copies (8s) are selling for an average price of $310.

1968 Topps, #75 (PRT)

At last! Well, the four-year contract with the NFL Players Association expired in 1967. Another important fact is the merger between the AFL and the NFL also happening in 1968.

One league with two divisions. Meaning card manufacturers only needed one license and can produce cards of players in both leagues. A wonderful thing for football hobbyists.

Not sure if Philadelphia Gum Co bowed out and said no thanks, or if they were outbid by Topps for the sole license. Whatever the reason Philadelphia did not produce cards after 1967.

Topps back on top again produced this beautiful football card of Gale Sayers. Great photography, colors, and a banner that looks like a pill. Love it!

The card back is equally as awesome. Vintage Topps for sure.

As of the date of this post raw copies are selling in the $15-$25 range depending on the condition of course.

Graded PSA Excellent-Mint copies (6s) have a $53.89 average sale price, and Near Mint-Mint copies (8s) are selling for an average price of $174.

For more Chicago Bears Hall of Fame rookie cards check articles on George Halas or Brian Urlacher.

Happy Collecting Collectors,

Learn. Collect. Enjoy.